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The Kingdom of Spain (Spanish and Galician: Reino de España or España; Catalan: Regne d'Espanya; Basque: Espainiako Erresuma). To the west (and, in Galicia, south), it borders Portugal. To the south, it borders Gibraltar and Morocco. To the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra. It includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla in north Africa, and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the "rocks" (peñones) of Vélez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil (disputed). In the Northeast along the Pyrenees, a small exclave town called Llívia in Catalonia is surrounded by French territory.



Main article: History of Spain


The aboriginal peoples of the Iberian peninsula, consisting of a number of separate tribes, are given the generic name of Iberians. This may have included the Basques, the only pre-Celtic people in Iberia surviving to the present day as a separate ethnic group. The most important culture of this period is that of the city of Tartessos. Beginning in the 9th century BC, Celtic tribes entered the Iberian peninsula through the Pyrenees and settled throughout the peninsula, becoming the Celtiberians.

The seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians successively settled along the Mediterranean coast and founded trading colonies there over a period of several centuries.

Around 1,100 BC Phoenician merchants founded the trading colony of Gadir or Gades (modern day Cádiz) near Tartessos. In the 8th century BC the first Greek colonies, such as Emporion (modern Empúries), were founded along the Mediterranean coast on the East, leaving the south coast to the Phoenicians. The Greeks are responsible for the name Iberia, after the river Iber (Ebro in Spanish). In the 6th century BC the Carthaginians arrived in Iberia while struggling with the Greeks for control of the Western Mediterranean. Their most important colony was Carthago Nova (Latin name of modern day Cartagena).

Roman Empire

The Romans arrived in the Iberian peninsula during the Second Punic war in the 2nd century BC, and annexed it under Augustus after two centuries of war with the Celtic and Iberian tribes and the Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian colonies becoming the province of Hispania. It was divided in Hispania Ulterior and Hispania Citerior during the late Roman Republic; and, during the Roman Empire, Hispania Taraconensis in the northeast, Hispania Baetica in the south and Lusitania in the southwest.

Hispania supplied the Roman Empire with food, olive oil, wine and metal. The emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Theodosius I, the philosopher Seneca and the poets Martial and Lucan were born in Spain. The Spanish Bishops held the Council at Elvira in 306. Many of Spain's present languages, religion, and laws originate from this period.

Muslim Spain

Main articles: Al-Andalus and Reconquista

In the 8th century, nearly all the Iberian peninsula, which had been under Visigothic rule, was quickly conquered (from 711), by Muslims (the Moors), who had crossed over from North Africa, as part of the Muslim conquests of the Christian kingdoms there by the religiously inspired Umayyad empire. Only three small counties in the north of Spain kept their independence: Asturias, Navarra and Aragon, which eventually became kingdoms.

Very soon the Muslim emirate split into small kingdoms. Christian and Muslim kingdoms fought and allied among themselves, with the Christians driving the Moorish forces out of the northernmost parts of the peninsula within a few decades. The Muslim taifa kings competed in patronage of the arts, and the Jewish population of Iberia set the basis of Sephardic culture. Much of Spain's distinctive art originates from this seven-hundred-year period, and many Arabic words made their way into Castilian (Spanish) and Catalan, and from them to other European languages.

The Moorish capital was Córdoba, in the southern portion of Spain known as Andalucía. During the time of Arab occupation, large populations of Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in close quarters, and at its peak some non-Muslims were appointed to high offices. Though its tolerance has been exaggerated and romanticised by 19th century scholars it did produce some real achievements. At its best it produced great architecture and art, and Muslim and Jewish scholars played a great part in reviving the study of ancient western culture and philosophy, making their own important contributions to it, and becoming one of the most important ways by which these studies were revived in Europe. However there were also restrictions and prohibitions on non-Muslims, which tended to grow after the death of Al-Hakam II in 976, and were accentuated after the fall of Al-Andalus in 1031. Later invasions of stricter Muslim groups from north Africa even led to persecutions of non-Muslims, forcing some (including some Muslim scholars) to seek safety in the then still relatively tolerant city of Toledo after its Christian reconquest in 1085.

The long, convoluted period of expansion of the Christian kingdoms, beginning in 722, only eleven years after the Moorish invasion, is called the Reconquista. As early as 739, the north-western region of Galicia, which became one of the most important centres of western medieval Christian pilgrimage, Santiago de Compostela, had been liberated from Moorish occupation by forces from neighbouring Asturias. The 1085 conquest of the central city of Toledo had largely brought to an end the reconquest of the northern half of Iberia. The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 heralded the collapse, within a few decades, of the great Moorish strongholds, such as Seville and Córdoba, in the south-west. By the middle of the thirteenth century most of the Iberian peninsula had been reconquered, leaving only Granada as a small tributary state in the south. It ended in 1492, when Isabella and Ferdinand captured the southern city of Granada, the last Moorish city in Spain. The Treaty of Granada [1] guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims while Jews were expelled that year. At Ferdinand's insistence the Spanish Inquisition had been established and Tomás de Torquemada was appointed as its first Inquisitor General in 1482. Behind much of the real religious intolerance was always the ever present fear that the Muslims might assist another Muslim invasion. Furthermore there were social tensions caused by Aragonese labourers being angered by landlords use of Moorish workers to undercut them. A 1499 Muslim uprising, triggered by forced conversions, was crushed and was followed by the first of the expulsions of Muslims, in 1502. The year 1492 was also marked by the discovery of the New World. Isabella I funded the voyages of Columbus. In their contests with the French army, Spanish forces, under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, relied more on well trained, highly mobile, regular soldiers and eventually achieved success with the organised tactical use of hand guns against armoured French knights, revolutionizing warfare, in the Italian Wars from 1494. Already considerable powers, these wars saw the emergence of the new combined Spanish kingdoms of Castile and Aragon as a European great power.

From the Renaissance to the 19th Century

Until the late of the 15th century, Castile and Léon, Aragon and Navarre were independent states, with independent languages, monarchs, armies and, in the case of Aragon and Castile, two empires: the former with one in the Mediterranean and the latter with a new, rapidly growing, one in the Americas. The process of political unification continued into the early sixteenth century. It was the unification of these separate Iberian empires that became the base of what is in now referred to as the Spanish Empire.

By 1512, most of the kingdoms of present-day Spain were politically unified, although not as a modern, centralized state (in contemporary minds, Spain was a geographic term meaning Iberian Peninsula, which includes Portugal, not the present-day state called Spain). The grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor but called in Spain Carlos I, extended his crown to other places in Europe and the rest of the world. The unification of Iberia was complete when Charles V's son, Philip II, became King of Portugal in 1580, as well as of the other Iberian Kingdoms (collectively known as "Spain" at that time).

During the 16th century, under the reigns of Charles V and Philip II, Spain became the most powerful nation in Europe. The Spanish Empire covered most territories of South and Central America, Mexico, some of Eastern Asia (including The Philippines), the Iberian peninsula (including the Portuguese empire from 1580), southern Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun did not set. It was a time of daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginning of European colonization. Not only did this lead to the arrival of ever increasing quantities of precious metals, spices and luxuries, and new agricultural plants, that had a great influence on the development of Europe, but the explorers, soldiers, traders and missionaries also brought back with them a flood of knowledge that radically transformed the European understanding of the world, ending conceptions inherited from medieval times. This intellectual transformation is best seen in the School of Salamanca.

The treasure fleet across the Atlantic and the Manila galleons across the Pacific made it the wealthiest and most powerful nation in Europe, but the rapidly rising influx of silver and gold from the colonies in the Americas throughout the 16th century ultimately resulted in economically damaging rampant inflation and led to economic depression by the 17th century. Religious and dynastic wars supported by the Spanish crown, especially in the Netherlands, also greatly burdened the empire's economy.

In 1640, under Philip IV, the centralist policy of the Count-Duke of Olivares provoked wars in Portugal and Catalonia. Portugal became an independent kingdom again, taking with it its empire, and Catalonia enjoyed some years of French-supported independence but was quickly returned to the Spanish Crown, except Roussillon.

A series of long and costly wars and revolts followed in the early 17th century, and began a steady decline of Spanish power in Europe from the 1640s. Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the country and much of Europe during the first years of the 18th century (see War of the Spanish Succession). It was only after this war ended and a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was installed that a true Spanish state was established when the absolutist first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain in 1707 dissolved the parliamentarist Aragon court and unified the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon into a single, unified Kingdom of Spain, abolishing many of the regional privileges and autonomies (fueros) that had hampered Habsburg rule. The British abandoned the conflict after Utrecht (1713), which led to Barcelona's easy defeat by the absolutists in 1714. The National Day of Catalonia still commemorates this defeat.

Of note during the 17th century was the cultural efflorescence now known as the Spanish Golden Age.

Historically, the period of the mid 17th century to the mid 20th century was a relative failure for Spain compared to north western Europe. The extended, lingering decline of the Spanish empire was due in large part, ironically, to its spectacular successes in the 15th and 16th centuries that led to the centuries of the treasure fleets bringing back silver and gold into the country from the American mines. These shipments engendered inflation (a fact noticed by the School of Salamanca that ate away at Spanish trades and commerce by causing local goods to be uncompetitive, and eventually making the country almost totally dependant upon imports by the mid seventeenth century, which proved disastrous as the silver mines became exhausted. Greatly worsening matters were the constant wars defending the global empire against envious European rivals, internal successions and the European wars (Eighty Years War and Thirty Years War), where Spain's resources were constantly drained defending the Habsburg's dynastic and religious interests, including the Counter Reformation. From the early 17th century the government sought to meet its needs by tampering with the silver content of the currency, leading to severe bouts of inflation and deflation. The terrible burden of taxes on the productive classes of the country, and the financial instability led to the collapse of the Castilian economy to the point where people resorted to bartering in 1627. A severe decline in food production ensued. The result was a steep real economic and demographic decline during the 17th century, especially in empire's overburdened lynchpin, Castile, aggravated by failed harvests and plagues. Habsburg policies that entrenched the privileges and exemptions of the nobility (with its roots back in the Castilian War of the Communities of 1518-1520) and the Church (as part of support of the Counter Reformation), with a great extension of Church lands, also played a decisive part in the undermining the Spanish economy and in curtailing the spread of modern thought. This was in stark contrast to the diminishing status of both institutions in rivals France, England and the Netherlands. The resentment of ordinary peasants and labourers would find expression in implicating the nobility of Moorish ancestory and the churchmen of hypocrisy. These accusations found their way into the theatre and literature of the time. The beggary that grew rapidly from the late 16th century forced many to live by their wits and inspired the popular picaresque genre of literature. Spain's economic and political decline in the late 17th and early 18th centuries mirrored in general the fate of other regions of southern Europe such as Portugal, the Italian states, the Balkans, and much of central and eastern Europe, as much of the rapidly growing global oceanic trade, pioneered by the Iberian countries, was diverted to north-western Europe.

Following the wars of Spanish succession at its commencement, the 18th century saw a long, slow recovery, with an expansion of the iron and steel industries in the Basque Country, some increase in trade and a recovery in food production and population. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system in trying to modernise the administration and economy, in which it was more successful in the former than the latter. In the last two decades of the century there was an extraordinary growth (from a relatively low base) in general trade after the opening up of free trade within the empire (ending Andalucia's royally granted monopoly), and even the beginnings of an industrialisation of the textile industry in Catalonia. Spain's effective military assistance to the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence won it renewed international status. But this promising late eighteenth century resurgence was short-lived, being totally disrupted by the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, that preceded the loss of the vast mainland American territories and plunged the country into endemic political instability, which lasted until 1939. The Napoleonic incursion led to a fierce guerilla war (Peninsular War) which saw the first wide spread manifestation of Spanish nationalism. In the 19th century, the Romantic travellers saw in a backward Spain an exotic country, based on Romantic 19th century mythmaking, from which the present day stereotypes mainly originate. In the latter half of the 19th century, Spanish Catalonia became the main center of Spain's industrialization. Pockets of relative modernity would appear, especially in Catalonia, Valencia and the Basque country, but generally Spain's extreme political instability in the 19th century made progress slow and very uneven.

At the end of the 19th century, Spain lost all of its remaining old colonies in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific regions, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines, and a large number of Pacific islands to the United States after the Spanish-American War of 1898 (See also Battle of Guam (1898).) Outstanding military efforts by soldiers and officers were badly let down by inept higher military and government leaders.

However "the Disaster" of 1898, as Spanish-American War was called, led to Spain's cultural revival (Generation of '98) in which there was much critical self examination, and relieved it from the burden of its last major colonies. However political stability in such a dispersed and variegated land, caught between pockets of modernity and large areas of extreme rural backwardness and strongly differentiated regional identities would elude the country for some decades yet, and was ultimately imposed only by a brutal dictatorship in 1939.

20th century

The 20th century initially brought little peace; Spain made a late and minor entry into the scramble for Africa, with the colonization of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. A military disaster in Morocco in 1921 contributed to discrediting the monarch and worsened political instability. A period of dictatorial rule (1923 - 1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country and Catalonia and gave voting rights to women. However, in July 1936, against a backdrop of increasing political polarization, anti-clericalism and pressure from all sides, coupled with growing and unchecked political violence, the Republic was faced with an attempted military coup d'etat led by right-wing army generals. Although the coup initially failed, the ensuing Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 with the victory of the nationalist forces led by General Francisco Franco and supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side received tepid support from European democracies, which left the Soviet Union and idealist voluntary International Brigades as the only supporters of the legitimate democratic Republican rule. The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War. After the civil war, General Francisco Franco ruled a nation exhausted politically and economically. During the Second World War Franco, under extreme pressure (Hitler had brought his army to the border of Spain after invading France), opted to remain neutral arguing that Spain could not afford a new war, but, as a concession to his civil war backer, authorised volunteers to go to the Russian front to fight the Soviet Union in an anti-Communist crusade in what came to be known as the Blue Division. The resentment of Franco's brutality towards the more modern pro-Republican regions of Catalonia and the Basque country, whose distinctive languages and identity he suppressed during his long reign, continues to fuel strong separatist movements to this day.

The only official party in Spain at the time of Franco´s regime was the Falange party founded by Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. Primo de Rivera denied his party was fascist, calling fascism fundamentally false. His political philosophy was based on Catholicism, saying that man "carries eternal values" and carries "a soul that is capable of damning or saving itself". He called for "the greatest respect for... human dignity, for the integrity of man and for his liberty." Primo de Rivera called for what he called "organic democracy". Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera was executed in Alicante in 1936.

After World War II, being one of few surviving fascist regimes in Europe, Spain was politically and economically isolated and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when it became strategically important for U.S. president Eisenhower to establish a military presence in the Iberian peninsula. This opening to Spain was aided by Franco's opposition to communism. In the 1960s, more than a decade later than other western European countries, Spain began to enjoy economic growth and gradually transformed into a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector. Growth continued well into the 1970s, with Franco's government going to great lengths to shield the Spanish people from the effects of the oil crisis.

Upon the death of the dictator General Franco in November 1975, his personally-designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, some regions — Basque Country, Navarra— were given complete financial autonomy, and many — Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia and Andalusia— were given some political autonomy, which was then soon extended to all Spanish regions, resulting in a quite decentralized territorial organization in Western Europe. Remaining dysfunctionalities, such as unlimited financial strain on contributor regions such as Catalonia make their people aim for a more equilibrated system, such as those enjoyed in Germany, where financial contribution to the whole can never exceed 4% of a Land's GDP. In the Basque Country pro-peace Basque and Spanish nationalisms coexist with radical nationalism supportive of the terrorist group ETA, which remains one of the biggest problems faced by Spanish citizens.

Adolfo Suárez González, Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo Bustelo, after an attempted coup d'état in 1981, Felipe González Márquez (when Spain joined NATO and European Union), José María Aznar López and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero have been prime ministers of Spain.

21st century

On March 11, 2004, a series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain. These resulted in 191 people dead and 1,460 wounded. It also had a significant effect on the upcoming elections in Spain, due in part to the ruling government's insistence that the ETA was the prime suspect in the bombings, even as the evidence of Muslim extremist terrorism rapidly emerged from the police investigation and the international press. see the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings article for more information

See also: List of Spanish monarchs, Kings of Spain family tree


Main article: Politics of Spain

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales or National Assembly. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate or Senado with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

Spain is, at present, what is called a State of Autonomies, formally unitary but, in fact, functioning as a Federation of Autonomous Communities, each one with different powers (for instance, some have their own educational and health systems, others do not) and laws. There are some differences within this system, since power has been devolved from the centre to the periphery asymmetrically, with some autonomous governments (especially those dominated by nationalist parties) seeking a more federalist—or even confederate—kind of relationship with Spain, now the Central Government is dealing with autonomous governments for the transfer of more autonomy. This novel system of asymmetrical devolution has been described as a coconstitutionalism and has similarities to the devolution process adopted by the United Kingdom since 1997.

The terrorist group, ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom), is attempting to achieve Basque independence through violent means, including bombings and killings of politicians, police and militaries. They consider themselves a guerrilla. Although the Basque Autonomous government does not condone any kind of violence, their different approaches to the separatist movement are a source of tension between the federal and Basque governments.

On 17 May 2005, all the parties in the Congress of Deputies, except the PP, passed the Central Government's motion of beginning peace talks with the ETA with no political concessions and only if it gives up all its weapons. PSOE, CiU, ERC, PNV, IU-ICV, CC and the mixed group -BNG, CHA, EA y NB- supported it with a total of 192 votes, while the 147 PP parliamentaris objected.

On February 20th 2005, Spain became the first country to allow its people to vote on the European Union constitution that was signed in October 2004. The rules states that if any country rejects the constitution then the constitution will be declared void. The final result was very strongly in affirmation of the constitution, making Spain the first country to approve the constitution via referendum (Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia approved it before Spain, but they did not hold referenda).

Administrative divisions

Administratively, Spain is divided into 50 provinces, grouped into 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities with high degree of autonomy.

Autonomous communities

Autonomous communities of Spain

Main article: Autonomous communities of Spain Spain consists of 17 autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas) and 2 autonomous cities (ciudades autónomas; Ceuta and Melilla).


Main article: Provinces of Spain

The Spanish kingdom has also a provincial structure. Spain is divided into 50 provinces (provincias). This structure is prior to that of the autonomous communities (dates back to 1833). Therefore, autonomous communities group provinces (for instance, Extremadura is made of two provinces: Cáceres and Badajoz). The autonomous communities of Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Cantabria, La Rioja, Navarre, Murcia, and Madrid (the nation's capital) are each composed of a single province. Traditionally, provinces are usually subdivided into historic regions or comarcas (main article: Comarcas of Spain).

Places of sovereignty

There are also five enclaves (plazas de soberanía) on and off the African coast: the cities of Ceuta and Melilla are administered as autonomous cities, an intermediate status between cities and communities; the islands of the Islas Chafarinas, Peñón de Alhucemas, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera are under direct Spanish administration.

The Canary islands, Ceuta and Melilla, although not officially historic communities, enjoy a special status.


Main article: Geography of Spain

Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees or the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tajo, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia, in the east there are alluvial plains with medium rivers like Segura, Júcar and Turia. Spain is bound to the east by Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic Islands), to the north by the Bay of Biscay and to its west by the Atlantic Ocean, where the Canary Islands off the African coast are found.

Spain's climate can be divided in four areas:

  • The Mediterranean: mostly temperate in the eastern and southern part of the country; rainy seasons are spring and autumn. Mild summers with pleasant temperatures. Hot records: Murcia 47.2 °C, Malaga 44.2 °C, Valencia 42.5 °C, Alicante 41.4 °C, Palma of Mallorca 40.6 °C, Barcelona 39.8 °C. Low records: Gerona -13.0 °C, Barcelona -10.0 °C, Valencia -7.2 °C, Murcia -6.0 °C, Alicante -4.6 °C, Malaga -3.8 °C.
  • The interior: Very cold winters (frequent snow in the north) and hot summers. Hot records: Sevilla 47.0 °C, Cordoba 46.6 °C, Badajoz 45.0 °C, Albacete and Zaragoza 42.6 °C, Madrid 42.2 °C, Burgos 41.8 °C, Valladolid 40.2 °C. Low records: Albacete -24.0  °C, Burgos -22.0 °C, Salamanca -20.0 °C, Teruel -19.0 °C, Madrid -14.8 °C, Sevilla -5.5 °C.
  • Northern Atlantic coast: precipitations mostly in winter, with mild summers (slightly cold). Hot records: Bilbao 42.0 °C, La Coruña 37.6 °C, Gijón 36.4 °C. Low records: Bilbao -8.6 °C, Oviedo -6.0 °C, Gijon and La Coruña -4.8 °C.
  • The Canary Islands: subtropical weather, with mild temperatures (18 °C to 24 °C Celsius) throughout the year. Hot records: Santa Cruz de Tenerife 42.6 °C. Low records: Santa Cruz de Tenerife 8.1 °C.

Most populous metropolitan areas

Metropolis building. Madrid, Spain
File:Santuario Novelda.jpg
Vista del Santuario de Santa María Magdalena de Novelda, Spain
  1. Madrid 5,843,041
  2. Barcelona 4,686,701
  3. Valencia 1,623,724
  4. Sevilla 1,317,098
  5. Málaga 1,074,074

For a more complete list, see List of cities in Spain

Two high-speed trains at Seville

Territorial disputes

Territories claimed by Spain

Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar, a tiny British possession on its southern coast. It changed hands during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704 and was ceded to Britain in perpetuity in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

Spanish territories claimed by other countries

Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the uninhabited Vélez, Alhucemas, Chafarinas, and Perejil islands, all on the Northern coast of Africa. Morocco points out that those territories were obtained when Morocco could not do anything to prevent it and has never signed treaties ceding them.

Portugal does not recognize Spain's sovereignty over the territory of Olivenza. Spain and Portugal disagree on the interpretation of the outputs of the Congress of Vienna (1815), which according to Portugal stated the return of the territory to Portugal. Spain claims it is a de jure sovereignty according to International law.


Main article: Economy of Spain

Spain's mixed capitalist economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is 87% that of the four leading West European economies. The centre-right government of former Prime Minister Aznar successfully worked to gain admission to the first group of countries launching the European single currency, the euro, on 1 January 1999. The Aznar administration continued to advocate liberalization, privatization, and deregulation of the economy and introduced some tax reforms to that end. Unemployment fell steadily under the Aznar administration but remains high at 9.8% as of August 2005 - but this (still unacceptable) level must be seen in the light of levels of over 20% at the start of the 1990s. Growth of 2.4% in 2003 was satisfactory given the background of a faltering European economy, and has steadied since at an annualised rate of about 3.3% in mid 2005. The Prime Minister Rodríguez Zapatero, whose party won the election three days after the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, plans to reduce government intervention in business, combat tax fraud, and support innovation, research and development, but also intends to reintroduce labour market regulations that had been scrapped by the Aznar government. Adjusting to the monetary and other economic policies of an integrated Europe - and reducing unemployment - will pose challenges to Spain over the next few years. According to World Bank GDP figuresfrom 2004, Spain has the 8th largest economy in the world.

There is general concern that Spain's model of economic growth (based largely on mass tourism, the construction industry, and manufacturing sectors) is faltering and may prove unsustainable over the long term. The first report of the Observatory on Sustainability (Observatorio de Sostenibilidad) - published in 2005 and funded by Spain's Ministry of the Environment and Alcalá University - reveals that the country's per capita GDP grew by 25% over the last ten years, while greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 45% since 1990. Although Spain's population grew by less than 5% between 1990 and 2000, urban areas expanded by no less than 25% over the same period. Meanwhile, Spain's energy consumption has doubled over the last 20 years and is currently rising by 6% per annum. This is particularly worrying for a country whose dependence on imported oil (meeting roughly 80% of Spain's energy needs) is one of the greatest in the EU. Large-scale unsustainable development is clearly visible along Spain's Mediterranean coast in the form of housing and tourist complexes, which are placing severe strain on local land and water resources.


Main article: Demographics of Spain

File:Rural Basque Country.jpg
Rural Basque country
File:Spain Cabo Trafalgar.jpg
Cabo Trafalgar in Cádiz (Spain)
File:Berria3 lou.JPG
Coast of Cantabria, in the called Green Spain.

The Spanish Constitution, although affirming the sovereignty of the Spanish Nation, recognizes historical nationalities.

The Castilian-derived Spanish (called both español and castellano in the language itself) is the official language throughout Spain, but other regional languages are also spoken. Without mentioning them by name, the Spanish Constitution recognizes the possibility of regional languages being co-official in their respective autonomous communities. The following languages are co-official with Spanish according to the appropriate Autonomy Statutes.

Catalan, Galician, Aranese (Occitan) and Spanish (Castilian) are all descended from Latin and have their own dialects, some championed as separate languages by their speakers (the Valencià of València, a dialect of Catalan, is one example).

There are also some other surviving Romance minority languages: Asturian / Leonese, in Asturias and parts of Leon, Zamora and Salamanca, and the Extremaduran in Caceres and Salamanca, both descendants of the historical Astur-Leonese dialect; the Aragonese or fabla in part of Aragon; the fala, spoken in three villages of Extremadura; and some Portuguese dialectal towns in Extremadura and Castile-Leon. However, unlike Catalan, Galician, and Basque, these do not have any official status.

In the touristic areas of the Mediterranean costas and the islands, German and English are spoken by tourists, foreign residents and tourism workers.

Many linguists claim that most of the Spanish language variants spoken in Latin America (Mexican, Argentinian, Colombian, Peruvian, etc. variants) descended from the Spanish spoken in southwestern Spain (Andalusia, Extremadura and Canary Islands).


The Spanish Constitution of 1978, in its second article, recognizes historic entities ("nationalities," a carefully chosen word in order to avoid "nations") and regions, inside the unity of the Spanish nation.

But Spain's identity is sometimes, in fact, an overlap of different regional identities, some of them even conflicting.

Castile is considered by many to be the "core" of Spain. However, this may just be a reflection of the fact that the Castilian national identity was the first one to be quashed by the Spanish Empire in the revolt of the Communards (comuneros).

The opposite is the case of a large part of Catalans, Basques and, in some measure, Galicians, who quite frequently identify primarily with Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country first, with Spain only second, or even third, after Europe. For example, according to the last CIS survey, 44% of Basques identify themselves first as Basques (only 8% first as Spaniards); 40% of Catalans do so with their autonomous community (20% identify firstly with Spain), and 32% Galicians with Galicia (9% with Spain). Even more remarkable, almost all comunities have a majority of people identifying as much with Spain as with the Autonomous Community (except Madrid, where Spain is the primary identity, and Catalonia, Basque Country and Balearics, where people tend to identity more with their Autonomous Community). Even Castille-Leon has 57% of people regarding themselves as much Spaniards as they are Castillians.

The situation is even more confusing, since there are regions with ambiguous identities, like Navarre, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, etc. There has been a lot of internal migration (rural exodus) from regions like Galicia, Andalusia and Extremadura to Madrid, Catalonia, Basque Country and the islands.

Spain became a unified crown with the union of Castile and Aragon in 1492 and the annexation of Navarre in 1515. Until 1714, Spain was a loose confederation of kingdoms and statelets under one king, until King Philip V (Felipe V) removed the autonomous status of the Aragonese crown. Navarre and the Basque Provinces, however, kept a high degree of autonomy within their legal and financial system (Fueros). Moreover, the creation of a unified state in the 19th and 20th centuries has led to the present situation, which is apparently simple, but sometimes extremely confusing. During the Second Spanish Republic (1931–1936), Catalonia and the Basque country were given limited self-government, which was lost after the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and restored in 1978 during the transition to democracy.

Survey of the latest CIS (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas) survey from which concrete data of this article have been extracted

Minority groups

Since the 16th century, the most important minority group in the country have been the Gitanos. Other historical minorities are Mercheros (or Quinquis) and Vaqueiros de alzada. The latter, meaning "Mountain cow-breeders" dwell in mountain ranges in the Principality of Asturias and have kept historically apart from the valley dwellers.

The number of immigrants or foreign residents has tripled to 3,691,547 in less than five years, according the latest figures (2005) of National Statics Institute. They currently make up around 8.5 per cent of the official total population. The rise of population in Spain in recent years was largely due to them. Nearly half of all immigrants have neither residence nor work permits.

As of October 2005, and according to the official Ministry of Labour data Permanent Immigration Observatory, there are 2,597,014 foreigners with valid residence permits, of which the largest are 552,694 EU citizens (of which 144,283 are British), 473,048 Moroccans, 333,251 Ecuadorians, 192,965 Colombians and 174,590 Romanians.

A sizeable and increasing number of Spanish citizens (as Spain applies ius soli and provides special measures for inmigrants from Spanish-speaking countries in order to adquire the citizenship) also descend from these communities.


1928 Spanish one-peseta postage stamp pairs Pope Pius XI and Alfonso XIII

Roman Catholicism is, by far, the most popular religion in the country. According to several sources (CIA World Fact Book 2005, Spanish official polls and others), from 80% to 94% self-identify as Catholics, whereas around 6% to 13% identify with either other religions or none at all. Spain is also the location of one of the Roman Catholic church's most important holy cities; Santo Toribio de Liébana, which holds the largest single piece of the true cross. It is important to note, however, that many Spaniards identify themselves as Catholics just because they were baptised, even though they are not very religious at all (in fact some polls show that 14% do not believe in any God). According to recent surveys (New York Times, April 19, 2005) only around 18 per cent of Spaniards regularly attend mass. Of those under 30, only about 14 per cent attend.

Further evidence of the secular nature of modern Spain can be seen in the widespread support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Spain - over 70% of Spaniards support gay marriage according to a 2004 study by the Centre of Sociological Investigations. Indeed, in June 2005 a bill was passed by 187 votes to 147 to allow gay marriage, making Spain the third country in the European Union to allow same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones. This vote was split along conservative-liberal lines, with PSOE and other left-leaning parties supporting the measure and PP against it. Proposed changes to the divorce laws to make the process quicker and to eliminate the need for a guilty party are also popular. In truth, there is a growing rift between the urban areas of Spain and parts of the periphery, such as Catalonia, who support the secularization of the state, and the rural areas and conservative parts of the periphery, like Galicia, who support keeping the social ideals inherent with their religious past.

According to membership [2], the second religion of Spain is the organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses with 103,784 active publishers; there are also many Protestant denominations, all of them with less than 50 000 members, and about 20,000 Mormons. Evangelism has been better received among Gypsies than among the general population; pastors have integrated flamenco music in their liturgy. Taken together, all self-described "Evangelicals" slightly surpass Jehovah's Witnesses in number. Other religious faiths represented in Spain include the Bahá'í Community.

The recent waves of immigration have led to an increasing number of Muslims, who have about 800,000 members. Muslims were forcibly converted in 1492 and then expelled in the 16th century.

Since the expulsion of the Sephardim in 1492, Judaism was practically nonexistent until the 19th century, when Jews were again permitted to enter the country. Currently there are around 14,000 Jews in Spain, all arrivals in the past century. There are also many Spaniards (in Spain and abroad) who claim Jewish ancestry to the Conversos, and still practice certain customs. Spain is believed to have been about 8 per cent Jewish on the eve of the Spanish Inquisition. See History of the Jews in Spain.

Over the past thirty years, Spain has become a more secularised society. The number of believers has decreased significantly and for those who believe the degree of accordance and practice to their church is diverse.

According to the latest official poll (CIS, 2002), 80% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholic, 12% as non-believer, and 1% as other (the remaining 7% declined to state). Of the 1.4% identifying as other, 29% identified as Evangelical Christian, 26% as Jehovah's Witnesses and 3,5% as Muslim (the rest either mentioned smaller religions or declined to state). According to the same poll, 73% believe in God, 14% don't and 12% are unsure (1% declined to state). Additionally, according to this poll, only 41% believe in Heaven. 24% of the Spaniards think that the Bible is just a fable. Only 25% of Catholics go to church at least once a week.

International rankings

See also

Main article: List of Spain-related topics

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Template:Wikinews John Hickman and Chris Little, "Seat/Vote Proportionality in Romanian and Spanish Parliamentary Elections", Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans Volume 2, Number 2, November 2000.

Harold Raley, "The Spirit of Spain", Houston:Halcyon Press 2001. (ISBN 0970605498)

George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

External links

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